Something I realised, was that part of the reason I talk so openly about mental health is because, quite simply, it’s part of who I am. And while I believe we should never be defined by our past experiences, these experiences, how we react to them, how we cope – make us who we are.
They’re like tiny jigsaw pieces, coming together and forming a puzzle of you.
Some pieces are dark, others shine like gold. I know for a lot of people, social media is reserved for just the gold pieces. We want to look shiny, happy, put together.
But that’s not me. And part of the work I want to do is to show people that it’s OK to have the dark pieces. It’s OK to not get everything right, it’s OK to still be learning. I want to bring my whole self to my online life.
And I should say here, that this is a choice I’ve made and it’s not right for everyone. For me, this choice has lead to more connection, solidarity and relief, but this might not be the case for everyone.
I watched a great Ted Talk recently by Raegan Hill about the power of kindness and in it she talked about how hiding the truth stresses us out. Lie detector tests are based on this very premise – when we lie, our heart rate increases because we’re stressed. Being honest makes us calmer and happier.
It’s easier said than done, I know. There’s so much vulnerability. Those dark pieces are fragile and sometimes a little uncomfortable to look at. And I’m not suggesting you lay out your deepest, darkest secrets on the Internet for people to oggle.
I’m suggesting that you take a closer look yourself and see which pieces are important to you. Which pieces have you learnt from, or grown from? Which pieces informed the person you are today?
My eating disorder piece isn’t pretty, but my recovery from it has informed my beliefs, values and steered the direction of my career.
The anxiety I get from time to time encourages me to take better care of myself. Learning how to deal with that has fuelled my desire to help others with self-care.
Once you’ve figured out which pieces are important, consider the effect it could have if you shared them.
Showing up as your whole self can help people connect with you, because you’ll be sharing from a place of true authenticity. It’ll give others permission to say, “me too”. It allows you to pull back the curtain and show people life isn’t all sunshine and flatlays, and god, we need more of that.
If you’ve got this far and you’re warming to the idea… the next step is to get comfortable with the fact that, yes, people might not like your dark pieces and unfollow.
There may be a million different reasons for this. Maybe they find what you’re saying triggering/too close to home. Maybe seeing you be your whole self, reminds them that they’re not.
Whatever the reason, it’s their choice and their right as a social media user to choose who they follow. It is not a personal attack on you (it’s always about them, not you).
When you show up as your whole self, you attract your right audience. Those who want to get to know the real you, those who are ready to connect.
If you’re OK with this and decide you want to start sharing other parts of you – take your time. Remember, you don’t owe anyone anything – it’s up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with.
Removing the mask of perfection is a way we can show ourselves, and others, a little kindness. You can put down that mask and just, breathe.
How do you feel about sharing online? Are you happy to share the rawer parts of you or do you prefer to keep things contained? Sharing these parts isn’t right for everyone, sometimes it isn’t possible or even safe. It’s all about figuring out what best serves you as someone sharing online.
I’m keen to explore the kindness idea I touched on here a little more in my next newsletter, especially after that amazing TED talk.
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